The recent decision by a federal judge to lift availability restrictions on a commonly used morning-after pregnancy prevention pill, Plan B One-Step, has caused a stir of controversy.
The storm is swirling not only about the rights and wrongs of allowing young girls access to a form of emergency birth control,
but also about the broader question of whether it’s appropriate for a cabinet secretary to rule on a drug’s availability for reasons other than its effectiveness and safety.
What Led to the Judge’s Controversial Ruling?
When the pill was first introduced in 1999 it was available by prescription only.
In 2006 it became available over-the-counter to women over 18 and in 2009 Judge Edward R. Korman ruled it should be purchasable by females 17 and
up without a prescription.
This ultimately means that parents of teen girls will be even less knowledgeable about their actions should they have a potential health scare.
Even if they don’t reach out to a parent, they’re no longer forced to reach out to someone for help and guidance.
The Food and Drug Administration moved in 2011 that there should be no age restriction on who can purchase the pill but
Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, overruled that decision, stating concerns that the effects of the drug on very young girls had not been studied.
In early April, 2013, however, Judge Korman overruled Secretary Sebelius, stating that “the secretary’s action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and
contrary to agency precedent.” In his 59-page ruling he reproached the Obama administration for placing more importance on politics than on science.
He stated that the administrations’ failure to lift restrictions on the pill’s accessibility was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”
Since Obama was campaigning at the time Secretary Sebelius made her declaration,
it is suspected that the determination to restrict the pill was a politically motivated move to prevent controversy from anti-abortionists that could affect the election.
Proponents of making Plan B available to all females state that the drug has been proven safe and pregnancy presents much higher risks to young girls than the pill does.
Opponents feel that this ruling endangers the health of young females, that it could be given to them against their will, or
that a young woman may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease during intercourse that will be left untreated if a doctor’s visit is not required to obtain the pill.
The judge gave the FDA 30 days to lift sale and age restrictions from Plan B pills and their generic counterparts. Now it is a wait and see game to discover if the administration will comply;
and then to see if pharmacies and other groups or private practices will allow the sale without identification or parental consent.
So where do you stand on the question? Should the morning after pill be available without restrictions?
Should a cabinet secretary be able to overturn the recommendations of a regulatory agency? Tell us what you think.
About the Author: Gretchen Holmes is a women’s health advocate who believes birth control should be available to all ages, but not necessarily the morning after pill.
When she’s not following legislative trends aimed at health, you can find her contributing on the curezone candida forum and on other sites designed to help women suffering from different conditions.